High Sierra's APFS optimized for flash storage & SSD, incompatible with legacy HDDs and po...

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The new APFS brings notable enhancements to High Sierra and iOS, but on the Mac it appears that legacy hard drives are completely incompatible with the technology and at least at launch that Fusion drives may not be either.




In an Apple support document published on Aug. 21, the company notes that systems with flash and SSD storage will be configured automatically -- and users cannot opt-out of the transition. However, in the same document, it also notes that systems with hard drives and Fusion drives won't be converted at all.

During the early beta process, it was not mandatory to migrate flash-based system drives to APFS.

It is unclear if this is a permanent state for APFS in regards to non-flash based storage media. In the latest developer beta of High Sierra, the hard drive prohibition is clear, but release notes declare that "some" iMacs with 3TB Fusion Drives "may be unsupported for use with APFS."

During the testing process, compatibility remains with HFS+ in APFS. Devices formatted as HFS+ can be read and written to by devices formatted as APFS, and drives formatted as APFS can be read and written by HFS+ formatted systems running macOS 10.12.6 or later.

Only High Sierra can boot from an APFS-formatted partition, however. Additionally, Boot Camp does not support reading to or writing from APFS volumes.

AppleInsider has reached out to Apple for clarification of the discrepancies between the support document and the release notes for the High Sierra beta, and will update with any information that is shared with us.

Apple's next-generation APFS made its way to macOS High Sierra after an official debut on iOS 10.3. With it comes essentially instant file copies, better efficiency for greater overall speed, and fine-tuning of read and write operations boosting system performance.

Early AppleInsider testing of APFS has shown notable advances in speed and gains in storage.

Prior to installation, the PCI-E SSD on a 2015 i7 MacBook Pro booted in about 24 seconds from a shut-down machine. Following installation, the boot time from "cold iron" was cut to 18 seconds -- 75 percent of the previous time.

The results on the SATA-3 SSD in a 2012 i7 Mac mini were more dramatic. A boot from a fully shut down state normally took about 42 seconds. Following High Sierra installation, boot times dropped to 64 percent of that in Sierra, taking only 27 seconds.

Prior to downloading the installer on our two test beds for High Sierra, the MacBook Pro had 222 GB used for the system, applications, and a large number of documents with nearly no duplications. Following installation, the MacBook Pro shrunk to 202 GB used -- nearly a 10 percent savings.

A more recent installation on a 2016 15-inch i7 MacBook Pro shrunk from 261GB to 235GB, delivering a very similar result percentage-wise to the older MacBook Pro.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 53
    So,

    my iMac (27-inch, Late 2012; 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7)
    has the 750GB Flash Drive
    and it is under
    macOS High Sierra Beta
    v 10.13 Beta (17A358a)

    Then WHY is the MacintoshHD drive still using the
    Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system ???
  • Reply 2 of 53
    I have a 5K iMac with 1TB Fusion drive I got at the end of 2014. I hope they get it working with these drives by GM.  :/
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 53
    Word of warning... if you get the error message “error installation could not complete... then reformat and reinstall say a SuperDuper backup running 12.6.2 then click to upgrade to the beta of macOS 13 it WILL install the current beta but ANY atttemptz to install the next beta will fail and bring you back to “an error stopped this installation”

     Just a heads up 
    john.b
  • Reply 4 of 53
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,961member
    Apparently this is optimized for flash. If so, which I believe Apple has stated, then HDDs might actually work more slowly. In addition, this uses trim, and other strategies for flash optimization. It’s possible that Apple is simply doing what Apple periodically does, which is to clean house of older technologies.
    edited August 2017 netroxGeorgeBMactipoo
  • Reply 5 of 53
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,573member
    I honestly thought that APFS worked fine with spinning hard drives, just not as optimally as SSD. I have a 2012 MacBook Pro running a new install of High Sierra, and just learned that it's still formatted as "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)". I thought it was already using APFS, but wasn't noticing any filesystem improvement. This system is dog-slowwwwww.
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 6 of 53
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,331member
    cc: @"dick applebaum" 

    (Why is this forum so bad at quoting a user's name that isn't a single word? it adds quotations.)
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 7 of 53
    gnnonignnoni Posts: 24member
    my iMac (27-inch, Late 2012; 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7, fusion drive), has the last public beta and its APFS since the first public beta, the installer did the conversión i din’t noticed the fusion drive was not used, so its running pretty well
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 53
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,409member
    So,

    my iMac (27-inch, Late 2012; 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7)
    has the 750GB Flash Drive
    and it is under
    macOS High Sierra Beta
    v 10.13 Beta (17A358a)

    Then WHY is the MacintoshHD drive still using the
    Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system ???
    I am assuming the MacintoshHD you refer to is the 750GB SSD.  If so:  It was an option during installation to select HFS+ or APFS you might have missed it, I did first time around. There is a small check box.  That said it can be converted after the fact by booting into the recovery partition.  Run Disk Utilities and there is a conversion option in the drop down menus.
    edited August 2017 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 53
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,331member
    I have it set up on an external 8TB RAID 0 as of around beta 6 (not a boot drive). That seems to be fine and I love the fast copy of files that it offers. My NAS will never get that option and I've had issues with my Mac mini's internal HDD being converted to APFS, but I haven't tried since the first couple of betas (it's a boot drive). I'll try converting it again after High Sierra is final. After that I may do the laborious task to switch out the HDD to an old SSD that I have, but I first wanted to see what the gains are with a spreadsheet I made to test speeds with various apps that I use to automate common tasks I perform on that headless Mac mini.
    edited August 2017
  • Reply 10 of 53
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,028member
    Umm, no where in the documentation does it say that hard disk drives are incompatible...

    When you upgrade to macOS High Sierra, systems with all flash storage configurations are converted automatically. Systems with hard disk drives (HDD) and Fusion drives won't be converted to APFS. 

    That does not say they can't be converted. APFS has been around in developer beta form for over a year now. I'm sure we would have heard rumblings from the blogosphere about this.

    I'm guessing there may be extra steps to take, possibly even a complete reformat to switch to APFS oh systems with hard disk drives.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 53
    toddzrxtoddzrx Posts: 199member
    Does this news hint at the possibility that Apple is looking at eliminating hard drives from the whole Mac lineup?
    ksecGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 12 of 53
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,331member
    mjtomlin said:
    Umm, no where in the documentation does it say that hard disk drives are incompatible...

    When you upgrade to macOS High Sierra, systems with all flash storage configurations are converted automatically. Systems with hard disk drives (HDD) and Fusion drives won't be converted to APFS. 

    That does not say they can't be converted. APFS has been around in developer beta form for over a year now. I'm sure we would have heard rumblings from the blogosphere about this.

    I'm guessing there may be extra steps to take, possibly even a complete reformat to switch to APFS oh systems with hard disk drives.
    I didn't have to reformat anything. Moving from HFS+ to APFS is safe (assuming it works), but you can't move from AFPS back to HFS+ without destroying the content… so make sure you back up.

    toddzrx said:
    Does this news hint at the possibility that Apple is looking at eliminating hard drives from the whole Mac lineup?
    Eventually that will that case, but HDDs will still have a long history of support with Apple as built-in drives, like with the Fusion Drive iMacs, to countless external drive setups.
  • Reply 13 of 53
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,967administrator
    mjtomlin said:
    Umm, no where in the documentation does it say that hard disk drives are incompatible...

    When you upgrade to macOS High Sierra, systems with all flash storage configurations are converted automatically. Systems with hard disk drives (HDD) and Fusion drives won't be converted to APFS. 

    That does not say they can't be converted. APFS has been around in developer beta form for over a year now. I'm sure we would have heard rumblings from the blogosphere about this.

    I'm guessing there may be extra steps to take, possibly even a complete reformat to switch to APFS oh systems with hard disk drives.

    Given that I can't format a 5TB hard drive in bay 2 on my 5,1 Mac Pro that now has APFS on its boot SSD, there's something going on. And like the article says, it's possible we may just have to wait.

    I'm aware of APFS' history. There may in fact be extra steps to take. They just don't exist now. And, if it was solid, why not convert the Fusion Drives automatically?
    watto_cobraamcliz
  • Reply 14 of 53
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,763member
    Soli said:
    cc: @"dick applebaum" 

    (Why is this forum so bad at quoting a user's name that isn't a single word? it adds quotations.)
    How come quoted messages no longer link back to the original post like they used to? How come typing “Here’s my #1 observation..” links to something strange? How come logging in doesn’t redirect you back to the referring article/page? How come attaching an image scrolls to the entire top of thread page?

    So many unanswered questions about the new forum system. 
    edited August 2017 Solijohn.bwatto_cobradysamoria
  • Reply 15 of 53
    melgross said:
    Apparently this is optimized for flash. If so, which I believe Apple has stated, then HDDs might actually work more slowly. In addition, this uses trim, and other strategies for flash optimization. It’s possible that Apple is simply doing what Apple periodically does, which is to clean house of older technologies.
    Cleaning house of older tech????

    Well then they should stop selling high priced computers with rotating rust drives.

    No? Well then they are the cheapskates that many people think.

    tipoo
  • Reply 16 of 53
    mubailimubaili Posts: 405member
    iMac 2017 5K automatically converted to APFS Encryption during the install. Then I formatted an external Seagate 4T hard drive to APFS Case sensitive Encryption and it works fine for storing tax documents and videos and mp3s.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 53
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,331member
    mubaili said:
    iMac 2017 5K automatically converted to APFS Encryption during the install. Then I formatted an external Seagate 4T hard drive to APFS Case sensitive Encryption and it works fine for storing tax documents and videos and mp3s.
    But that means your iMac only has an SSD internally, correct? That's the only time I've seen the APFS checkbox auto-selected.
    edited August 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 53
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,188member
    gnnoni said:
    my iMac (27-inch, Late 2012; 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7, fusion drive), has the last public beta and its APFS since the first public beta, the installer did the conversión i din’t noticed the fusion drive was not used, so its running pretty well
    Interesting... I have the same setup with the 3TB fusion drive. Installing Beta 1 of High Sierra with APFS rendered my machine completely unbootable and I had to do a complete reinstall of the previous OS version (Low Sierra). Since then I've installed High Sierra beta on a 13" MacBook Pro and it worked without a hitch and the installer reformatted the SSD to APFS. I also installed High Sierra beta on a Mac Mini with a 1 TB spinner disk and it worked without a hitch and the installer formatted the hard disk to Journaled HFS+.

    I'm tempted to retry the Fusion iMac with High Sierra and make sure it uses Journaled HFS+. Or maybe I'll wait to see if Apple fixes the High Sierra Fusion issue. It's times like this that I wish the iMac had a way for the end-user to easily change/upgrade the mass storage device. 
    dysamoria
  • Reply 19 of 53
    So—what happens with my MBP 2014 w a SSD and Boot Camp on the drive? And will Parallels see Boot Camp to use as a VM? Maybe make a full VM of BC first, then delete the BC partition after making a clone of it first with Winclone, and reinstall it when APFS is compatible with BC?
  • Reply 20 of 53
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,331member
    dewme said:
    gnnoni said:
    my iMac (27-inch, Late 2012; 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7, fusion drive), has the last public beta and its APFS since the first public beta, the installer did the conversión i din’t noticed the fusion drive was not used, so its running pretty well
    Interesting... I have the same setup with the 3TB fusion drive. Installing Beta 1 of High Sierra with APFS rendered my machine completely unbootable and I had to do a complete reinstall of the previous OS version (Low Sierra). Since then I've installed High Sierra beta on a 13" MacBook Pro and it worked without a hitch and the installer reformatted the SSD to APFS. I also installed High Sierra beta on a Mac Mini with a 1 TB spinner disk and it worked without a hitch and the installer formatted the hard disk to Journaled HFS+.

    I'm tempted to retry the Fusion iMac with High Sierra and make sure it uses Journaled HFS+. Or maybe I'll wait to see if Apple fixes the High Sierra Fusion issue. It's times like this that I wish the iMac had a way for the end-user to easily change/upgrade the mass storage device. 
    I'm curious why you did that when Apple has been very clear about APFS issues with Fusion Drives. Was just to see if you could beat the odds?

    You should have no issues with HFS+ and will be able to boot into Recovery Mode at any time to initiate the non-destructive conversation to APFS when Apple finally removes al the warnings from the Release Notes.
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